James Ward-Prowse has made his mark imitating English football’s biggest names on and off the field in recent months.
The Southampton skipper has established himself as one of the finest set piece takers around with years of studying David Beckham’s technique and replicating it in training paying dividends.
Ward-Prowse is now just six goals behind his boyhood hero’s Premier League record of 18 goals from direct free-kicks – a marker the midfielder would love to beat.
“That would be an incredible achievement and it’s a good lesson for me in life that if you work hard at a particular skill you can reap the rewards of it,” the 27-year-old Saints captain said.
“To beat someone like that I think would be incredibly impressive, but the funny thing is Beckham obviously went on to play in other countries and I’ve had a long time in the Premier League. I think it speaks a lot about his quality.
“It’s a good target to have in the back of my mind.
“Being English and seeing the magical moments that he’s created in an England shirt, he was the one I would race out into the garden to try and emulate and copy.
“I had a few of his hairstyles as well along the way and the boots.
“I’d love to meet him one day and have a coffee and a chat and just pick his brains. Hopefully if I can reach the record then hopefully he may reach out. We’ll see.”
While Ward-Prowse has managed to get near Beckham’s on-field exploits, he has been unable to add him to his list of impersonations.
The midfielder made waves last month when wowing Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher with his impressions of the former England pair in a pitchside interview following Southampton’s win against Norwich.
Asked if impersonations were a hidden talent, Ward-Prowse said with a laugh: “Yeah, you could say that!
“I can just do like a general Scottish, Irish, Welsh. I’ve just had a knack at it since I was a kid. It’s a good ice breaker, especially if new players come in.”
Ward-Prowse has a couple of new faces to impress in the England camp as Gareth Southgate’s men kick-off World Cup preparations with friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast.
He is sure to add to his nine caps over the coming days and is determined to press home his case for Qatar having watched Euro 2020 from his sofa after being cut from the provisional list.
“To have missed out in the summer and to sit at home and watch the lads be successful was difficult and I’m making sure that I don’t miss out on another one,” he said.
“It was (painful) but it’s football, it’s life. You can’t always have what you want.
“It came off the back of a really positive season with Southampton. I knew I gave everything I could and had done enough to be involved in the squad but it wasn’t to be.
“But I know I played a part in helping them prepare, however small that might have been, I did my part to help the team. And it was great to sit at home and watch them be successful.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.